Let’s go from the known to the unknown with a lo-fi, low-budget feature from a first time director; Jon Corum’s Splinters is a domestic drama that manages to rise above financial limitations to provide an engrossing watch. Thrill-seekers need not apply; this is proper indie fare, offering an alternative to jazzed-up studio films; think Ordinary People, a story about a family struggling with grief, and you’ll be headed in the right direction, although Splinters has an unassuming and sometimes darkly comedic vibe that’s very much its own.
Somewhere in the Midwest, Anna (Joni Mann) and her son Bo (Jackson Kelly) are first seen mourning her husband and Bo’s father. Bo is taking it hard, and things get worse when his mother’s youth and attractiveness reel in Bo’s schoolteacher David (Paul Hudson) who quickly takes a shine to the boy’s mom. Bo is developing a relationship with David’s daughter Joan (Annie Bulleit), and believes that his father might have known of some buried loot at the sawmill where he used to work, but tracking it down is tricky when your domestic life is increasingly agonising….
Bo’s situation is somewhere between Hamlet and Rushmore, but what transpires is neither overtly comic nor tragic; Corum resists the temptation to go big and instead draws out the genuine emotions involved in a subtle but sensitive way. Not too much happens here, but the way Corum and his cast conjure up well-caught moments is effective; a visit to a local ‘Lonely Tonight’ country show is teased out, very much in tune with Bo’s ongoing discomfort. And even David is afforded humanity; yes, he’s resented by Bo, but he’s not a villain, just misguided by what he himself wants and blinded to the pain that it might cause.
Released by Outsider Pictures as part of their welcome focus on first-time directors, Splinters is an assured first feature that promises much for Corum and his cast, who offers strong performances that make the story sing. Splinters is a worthwhile debut; if a percentage of the audience who regularly despair about the lack of new work tuned in, this might well generate some deserved attention for all concerned.
Splinters is on iTunes, Amazon, Googleplay, Youtube and Vudu streaming services.